(UPDATE - I should mention up front that my posts represent my own views alone, and not the views of this blog in general or any other specific writers here. I'm just soliciting suggestions for where readers might like me to focus, and I do not speak for any other contributors, all of whom have their own styles, interests, and agendas. But comments generally relating to this blog as a whole are also welcome.)
This will be the last of my “introductory” posts. Next week, it’ll be on to pushing some specific activism. But before that, I just wanted to get some thoughts together on where this movement is going. What are we looking for?
Too summarize the scamblogs before ITLSS, there seemed to be a large group of individuals who had all suffered badly by obtaining JDs, but who all responded to this harm in different ways. Some wanted student loan reform. Some wanted the end of student loans. Some hoped to achieve transparency in the statistics (and actually achieved great success with this as Law School Transparency), some wanted law school to answer for their crimes in court. Some dreamed of law schools closing for good, while others wished for milder changes to the curriculum. All had validity, but with so many sets of hands pulling in so many directions, I don’t recall seeing much change. Publicity, yes, plenty of publicity, and perhaps that led to a decrease in application volume, but nothing specific and identifiable really changed. (And if I’m wrong about this, please let me know. I’m aware that law school applications dropped generally, which is a fine goal to have achieved, but no reforms at the institutional level.)
Then ITLSS came along, and we came together. That site was the central plaza for the scamblog movement, and people inside the law school Establishment stopped and listened. ITLSS gave the message some legitimacy and made many inside the scam – professors, deans, administrators etc. - realize that this wasn’t something that was going to disappear when we lost interest, and it wasn’t something that they could brush under the corner of the rug. That didn’t stop them trying though!
But even at the ITLSS stage of our evolution, we lacked direction. Or let me rephrase: I thought we lacked direction. We didn’t lack direction in our motivation and passion for confronting the issues, but I never felt like we knew where we were going.
Throughout my working life, I have seen things fail because the goals were not set beforehand or developed as early as reasonably possible. If one is aiming at an intangible, constantly-changing target, or no target at all, one never hits the ten ring. From huge projects to small, without knowing where we are going, we end up going nowhere. Sometimes, we end up going in the wrong direction. Most of the success can be attributed to luck.
And we can see that even within the scamblog movement. One group (LST) set a very specific goal early on – transparency and reform in the way law schools presented their employment statistics – and kept their eyes on that goal. And they hit, and are now one of the great success stories of law school reform, respected too by those inside and those outside the law school scam. And some other scamblogs have set no specific goals, or goals that really don’t mean anything, goals that can’t be turned into a plan of action, and I think it’s debatable if any can point to specific changes in the law school Establishment and say, “We did that.”
My point being as follows: I feel that if we do not set a tangible, achievable goal, we will achieve nothing except more talk. (Although as one of my fellow writers pointed out, talk is necessary because it keeps the message fresh and keeps application levels dropping, which in turn will hopefully lead to law school reform.) Should we set a goal? Something that we can all aim for and work towards? And if so, what would that goal be? There are plenty of things that need changing. Are there certain things that we want to see changed? Do we want to lead the change, rather than merely being responsible for a reduction in applications, which will allow law schools themselves to dictate how they respond – and they may respond in ways that benefit the scam rather than benefiting the students.
Or am I completely wrong about this? Should we be more focused on guerrilla tactics instead? After all, the law school Establishment is very organized, very formal, and doesn’t know how to react to students challenging the status quo. (I do despise the term ‘guerilla’ though, as it reminds me of that book much loved by lazy law school career services employees, “Guerilla Tactics for Getting the Legal Job of Your Dreams”, which was basically an excuse for those careers office employees to drink coffee all day and tell their students to go and read the book and then find the jobs for themselves. In fact, perhaps that book should have been a huge red flag to us all – why did we need to use guerrilla tactics in the job search? After all, the law schools told us that 90%+ of their grads were walking into these kinds of awesome jobs, so they should be have been easy to find, right? But that’s another story for another day.)
What should we be focusing on, if anything? Should we be focusing on all law schools, or perhaps just a subset? After all, we know that Harvard and Yale are hardly scam schools, and nor are many of the top schools, especially when considering some of the truly terrible schools that reside at the bottom of the rankings. We have limited resources, so should we focus on the main offenders? Shuttering some of those bottom-feeder schools would result in a dramatic reduction not just in the number of available seats in law schools, but in seats in the right law schools. Aiming for across-the-board cuts doesn’t place the cuts where they need to be. (Rather like the sequestering process going on at the federal level as we speak.)
Or should we aim to become part of a wider higher education reform community, reaching out to broader student loan reform groups and those representing students at other levels and in other fields who are suffering many of the same problems? I’m sure we have resources and information that would benefit them, and they would have the same for us.
I’m not necessarily advocating that we pick a single niche to focus on and do nothing else until we have achieved that goal. For LST, it worked. For us? Probably not. But I do think we need to start to at least define the problems specifically rather than generally, and that we start to really identify specific areas and schools that cause the most harm and which should be reformed. Third Tier Reality is a good example of this: Nando focuses on the worst offenders first, the high-value targets. He has no need to profile top schools (yet) because they really don’t contribute to the scam in the same way that the bottom-feeders do.
I’ll revisit this after we’ve all had a chance to think about it. My personal opinion is that we need to focus first on a group of specific, named schools, and through pushing for serious reform at those schools (such as specific changes in class size, curriculum, faculty, admissions, facilities, financing etc.) we can highlight the issues in the broader law school Establishment that affect all students. And I’d love to hear your thoughts on which schools we should be targeting. Who are the greatest offenders? I have my list. Which schools are on yours and why?
In my years in practice, I’ve come to learn one key thing: you need to tell people what you’re asking for, because otherwise they just don’t know. It’s all well and good to moan and gripe to opposing counsel about the harm done to your client by his, but you’ve also got to tell him exactly what your client wants in terms of righting the wrong. And I think we’ve come to the stage in the law school scam movement where we need to tell people, “This is what we want.”